In the verses leading up to John 3:16 through 3:21, we see Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus, who is not yet willing to accept Jesus as the son of God or as his lord and savior, and who is equally unwilling to make a decision on such a topic. We see a man who has not yet seized the opportunity to enhance his own life by letting Jesus into it. Nicodemus only sees the greatness of his own life and does not see the wisdom, truth, or virility that can be provided to him by Jesus. He is a man, not too much unlike doubters of today, who wants more proof and who believes that his current way of being is working and will get him to a better afterlife. For moments he seems to come to the light and accept Jesus, but never for too long as his doubt continues to triumph. All the while, Jesus listens to him and allows him to express his frustrations and doubts. Jesus listening to Nicodemus in this way sets the conversation up nicely for what comes in verse 3:16. There, in essence, Jesus finally interrupts Nicodemus to let him know the truth of acceptance and what said acceptance will bring to the acceptor. (Phillips, 2011). So, the context of John 3:16 falling right after the conversation with Nicodemus lets the reader know that what is told in 3:16 is not so much a threat to the readers in general, but rather, merely a statement to Nicodemus as an individual as to what can come of his eternal life when he becomes a believer. If one was to read 3:16 on its own merit without putting in in the context of a conversation with Nicodemus, one might mistakenly see Jesus as being threatening or arrogant where he is actually being helpful and serving as a worthy advisor to Nicodemus. 3:16, then, by virtue of what precedes it, lends itself to being a very personal and giving moment displayed by Jesus as he lends caring advice to a man who would be well served to be less self-oriented and instead give his life to Jesus, son of God. (Duffinbaugh). 2. Form Criticism
In John 3:16 to 3:21, we see a narrative format, whereby John is describing the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus as well as the words that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in order to get him to see the virtue of accepting Him as the son of God. (Fulthorp, 2012). Here, John tells us the story vividly and with enthusiasm, even quoting Jesus, thus giving further credence to His words within this passage. In doing so, John is able to bring the reader to the conversation, such that we can have an almost omniscient view of the doubts Nicodemus has and the strength that Jesus has in putting those doubts to rest. The narrative style of being in that present moment, then, allows the reader to gain a greater understanding of the kind approach of Jesus than had it been told from a more removed perspective. This style is not uncommon in the New Testament as a narrative prose is seen frequently throughout. When John uses this style, he gives us that front row seat to the happenings of Jesus’ life such that we can see for ourselves the way that he tried to help and counsel people. That narrative style is very helpful in making the readings of the New Testament real and meaningful, such that the story can speak for itself instead of someone merely imploring us to be believers. In that way, a narrative prose is far more powerful than a commanding one, and also far less threatening to the Christian and non-Christian alike. 3. Structure
The language seen in John 3:16 to 3:21 is not unlike that seen in John 4:7 to 4:10, where John is again telling the reader of how Jesus will accept and love you once you have accepted and loved him. (Roberts). Both passages speak of God’s love for us and of how God has provided Jesus to us to cleanse us of our sins and flaws. Also, both passages give insight into the character that the lord has as a giver and as a savior of flawed sinners. Not only do both passages speak of God’s love, but they also speak of him...